Was Swearing Forbidden By Jesus?

The Question: Did Jesus Forbid Us to Swear?

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Jesus’ statement is usually taken to mean that from Christ onward, a believer is not allowed to swear.  Instead, he or she must simply be truthful. But like everything else, this statement had its own context.

“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King … let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Mat. 5:34-37)

Swearing was mostly done not by the Name of God, therefore, it was considered less binding, working very much against the whole idea of guaranteeing the promise made.
However, in Numbers 30:2 we read: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord … he must not break his word; he must do whatever he has promised.” This is the basic meaning of not taking God’s Name in vain (Ex.20:7). Instead of presenting something new, Jesus recalls that which the Torah already specified.

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This becomes even clearer when we read that: “… everyone who swears by God will exult, because the mouths of liars will be silenced.” (Ps.63:11) Even the apostle Paul, when he was accused by his enemies of doing great evil in the sight of God, called the Lord to be his witness that he was telling the truth (Gal. 1:20).

The upshot is that swearing must be limited only to extra-ordinary situations, and if one is going to swear, he or she must swear by the Lord God Himself. Nothing else will do.



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How Do You Define the Sin of Taking the Lord’s Name In Vain?

What Does It Mean to Take God’s Name in Vain?

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When I was growing up, I was told to use God’s name in church, prayer, or other spiritual contexts, but to say “God” in an irreligious way—after stubbing a toe or losing a game—was to break the commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exod 20:7). While I still refrain from saying “God” outside of religious discourse, this verse doesn’t mean what I was told growing up. When the Bible proscribes taking the Lord’s name in vain, it does not refer to saying “God” as an exclamation or expletive; instead, it prohibits invoking the divine name in an oath, and then failing to fulfill that oath.

In ancient Israel, an oath was a solemn statement that began חי־יהוה (chai Adonai)—“as the Lord lives”—and meant: “If I don’t fulfill the following oath, may the Lord who lives strike me dead!” For example, after Jonathan convinced Saul not to kill David, “Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives (חי־יהוה; chai Adonai), he shall not be put to death’” (1 Sam 19:6). Saul’s oath means that if David dies at Saul’s hand, then Saul also deserves to die.

The Hebrew word commonly translated “take” in Exod 20:7 is נשא (nasa), meaning to “bear” or “lift up.” Invoking God’s “name” (שׁם; shem) means bearing it, just like Aaron was to “bear” (נשא; nasa) the names (שׁמות; shemot) of the Israelites” on his breastplate (Exod 28:29). As a bearer of God’s name, the oath-taker must accomplish the sworn oath, or else…. Yeshua protected his followers from taking God’s name in vain when he said to “not swear at all” (Matt 5:34) – that way, you’ll never swear an oath that you might not fulfill, so you can rest assured that you’ll never break the commandment!


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